There’s none so simple, yet so complex as the Old Fashioned, a cocktail so historic that it earned its moniker in or around 1880. How old fashioned must one be to have been old fashioned 140 years ago?
The gin equivalent of this drink is a funny old thing; dry as a bone, despite its sugary make-up, and deliciously rich. We think it is probably the way to drink barrel aged gins; in fact, there are some that work so well in this combination that it almost feels like destiny. As a cocktail it’s smooth, sultry and effortlessly dignified, perfect for dim lights and late nights.
How to make a Gin Old Fashioned:
Firstly, as we mentioned above, a barrel aged gin is the only real way to make this work. We’re not entirely opposed to giving it a go with a super-sweet Old Tom, but wood is the main character here, no bones about it.
1 lump sugar (preferably demerara)
2 – 3 dashes Angostura bitters
40ml Barrel Aged Gin (GF reccommends Coppers Barrel Aged or Citadelle Reserve)
Orange Peel to garnish
Drop the sugar lump into the bottom of the glass and splash the bitters over it. Muddle the two together until you’ve formed something of a paste. A dash – the smallest dash – of water will help quicken up this process along. Add about half of the gin to the glass, then stir until the sugar has dissolved. Fill the glass with ice, then top up with the rest of the gin, give it a quick final whirl and add the orange peel.
A brief, inebriated history:
Famously, the Old Fashioned is and has always been the property of whisk(e)y, but lately it’s been taken for a right old adventure, moving across the entire spirit realm.
And when we say lately… Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail book, first published in 1930, has a recipe for the Old Fashioned that states “This cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc., instead of Rye Whiskey.” So, while it’s hardly a new idea to use something other than Whisk(e)y, it’s probably more apt to say that lately it has been embraced, as drinkers continue to explore the very depths and nuances of the spirits they’re imbibing in great quantity and with far more information at their disposal than ever before.
According to drinking folklore – before it was known as the Old Fashioned, it was the Whiskey Cocktail, and the oldest version of it in a printed cocktail book (that we know of, anyway) happens to be the work of the long dead and still much celebrated bartender and author Jerry Thomas, who featured the cocktail in his 1862 book The Bartenders Guide. It’s worth noting here that Thomas has an almost identical Brandy and Gin recipe in the book, so – as we said before – while it’s famously a Whiskey drink, it’s likely that Whiskey was the most enduring variation because it was the one that worked best.
Difford’s Guide has a really informed write-up on the history of the spirit, whilst the Distiller blog has explored it in depth, going into detail on fanfare laden adaptations of the spirit. Both are worth a read and delve into the fascinating history of this drink!
Still… onwards and upwards for the Gin version… Since the post-2012 Gin resurgence, Barrel Aged editions of the spirit have steadily been proliferating their way across bar shelves, and while many haven’t worked (botanicals are temperamental; even when distilled, they’re very much living things, so they react with wood in all sorts of crazy ways, with juniper putting in the most erratic performance of all), several have:
Vermont Spirits’ Coppers Barrel Gin is definitely one to try, along with Salcombe’s Finisterre, 9 Moons, Koval Barrel Aged, Old Ma’s Gin and Citadelle’s Reserve Gin.
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